Off the Front Page: U.S. violates international law (again)


On July 29, various news agencies reported that the UN Human Rights Committee on Friday called the U.S. an international outlaw. That’s not exactly how they put it, but here’s some of what they did say:

Agence France Presse (AFP) said, “The committee is concerned by credible and uncontested information that the state party [the U.S., that is] has seen fit to engage in the practice of detaining people secretly and in secret places for months and years on end…”

“‘The state party should immediately abolish all secret detention facilities. It should also grant prompt access by the International Committee of the Red Cross to any person detained in connection with an armed conflict,’ said the Committee.”

The Reuters News Service said that “The UN body also expressed concern at the acknowledged past use of interrogation techniques like prolonged stress positions and sleep deprivation that could be seen as torture.”

The call of the Human Rights Committee to immediately abolish all secret detention facilities “echoes a similar demand in May by the UN Committee Against Torture,” said Reuters.

Officials of the U.S. government issued a novel response to the U.N. Committee’s report. They “accused the committee of spending too much time on the United States,” said the Reuters report, which went on to quote U.S. State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger saying, “We find these conclusions outside the scope of the Committee’s mandate and an unfortunate diversion of the Committee’s attention.” In other words, the U.S. will ignore international law, as usual when it is inconvenient.

This attitude and pattern of behavior did not escape the notice of the Rights Committee. The AFP reported that the UN’s 18 legal experts, in their report, “listed a wide range of concerns relating to the conduct of US President George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror’, but also about the human rights situations in the United States.”

“[Bush administration officials] were isolated in their interpretation of international law and even their concept of domestic law does not match that of the Supreme Court,” said the Human Rights Committee’s chairwoman.

I saw one brief report on all this in the U.S. press, in the form of a few paragraphs on page 4 of the July 29 New York Times. I don’t think it ran anywhere else in the U.S., although it was widely covered overseas. Seems like Front Page News to me.